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Mystery Salad

Someone stop me. I can’t stop myself from doing these. Every time I see one of these jello recipes I HAVE to do it. I need to know what it looks like! What does it taste like? WHY did people EAT THIS!?!

Why do I have raspberry jello and a can of stewed tomatoes in my pantry?

Even though this is an extremely short recipe – there is so much to unpack here.

Just in case you can’t see or read that recipe…Let me make sure you get the full picture.

  • 1 box of Raspberry JELLO
  • 1 #1 can of STEWED TOMATOES
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Hot Water

Raspberry Jello and Stewed Tomatoes! Raspberry Jello and Stewed Tomatoes! What in the ACTUAL? Who in the name of God thought to put these two things together?!?! Also, make sure it’s stewed tomatoes with onions, celery and stuff. Not worth the calories if it isn’t!

What’s a #1 can? Google to the rescue! Turns out a #1 is just 11 ounces. My can of stewed tomatoes was 14.5 ounces. Those extra three ounces would just have ruined the whole thing, I’m sure.

Dissolve the jello in hot water. Break the tomatoes in small pieces and add to the gelatin with the Tabasco. Because…yea….big chunks of tomato would bring this whole thing crumbing down. Pour the jello / tomato / Tabasco stuff into a lightly oiled mold (glass bowl) and leave to set in the fridge.

Finally, my favorite part was sour cream with a little sugar, salt and horseradish…to taste. I have no idea what this is supposed to taste like! As if I’m going to have a bite and think “I don’t know, a bit more sugar would really make this all come together”.

End Result

Here it is. Mystery Salad. It is, truly, a mystery.
It wasn’t…..disgusting. Shockingly. I would never make this again, nor would I ever intentionally order it. But if I was at a fancy dinner party and someone put this in front of me, I could get it down and still remain polite to the host. Because I’m SURE this is what the upper echelon of society is serving at fancy dinner parties these days.

The sauce, however, was gross and superfluous. And yes, of course I piped the sauce to make it pretty. Anything worth doing y’all.

My mother suggested that maybe a “crunch” factor was needed. Yep – that’s all that was missing … a wheat thin.

For more truly gross jello molds check out: Molded Crab Meat!

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Texas BBQ Sauce

Let’s talk BBQ folks! There are typically two kinds of people.

One: “Sure, I like BBQ!”
Two: “YAASS! Let me tell you about my families BBQ, which is the best. In the world! Oh? You’ve got a recipe? How cute are you. No. You don’t. Mine is the best.”

BBQ is serious business to some. Almost a religion. The different types: Dry rub or Wet. Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, or Texas. Tomato, Vinegar or Mustard base? Do you bake it, grill it or smoke it. I have been on the receiving end of quite a few eye rolls and scoffs in my time.

One of Mike’s favorite shows to binge is BBQ Pit Masters. It’s like Real Housewives of New York meets Food Network. It’s bizarre – and nasty at times.

Let’s Cook!

Ribs was already on the menu for this weekend and I was thrilled to find this BBQ sauce recipe. On a chilly rainy weekend, grilling won’t work, so it’s low and slow in the oven.

Make sure you’ve removed the silver skin, generously salt and pepper both sides, and place in a roasting pan or high sided baking sheet. Cover tight with tinfoil and bake at 275 for 3 to 4 hours.

While it was baking I put the sauce together. I’m still chuckling over the line item “1/2 teaspoon mono-sodium glutamate”. Heh. I certainly don’t have any MSG in my spice cabinet. I could buy it from Amazon for $16.00, but I think we’ll just skip that for now. Wasn’t that the big thing about Chinese restaurants years ago? All the MSG and how it was going to kill us? Sigh…if only that was the biggest fear we faced right now.

MSG aside, let’s get this mixed. I know it looks like a lot of ingredients but that’s because there is! Almost every prep bowl I own. And WOW that’s a lot of vinegar!

Mix it all and heat it up. Done.

At the three hour mark, take the ribs out of the oven and check if it’s ‘fall off the bone’ yet. If the ribs are at that point, then slather them with the sauce and pop them back in the oven for another thirty minutes.

I would love to say that I have a fantastic picture of the cooked ribs. Some Instagram worthy picture of three or four ribs piled on top of each other with the sauce dripping down the sides. But I don’t. When the ribs were deemed done – the shit hit the fan and it was like I hadn’t fed my family in days. I got a shot of the full rack in the pan…that was it.

Final Results:

My husband really likes stuff with vinegar in it. Like, a lot.

This is damn fine BBQ sauce. I was going to pour the extra away, but Mike grabbed it and said he would find SOMETHING to put it on. This will definitely be made again. However, I will cut down on the cayenne (there was a bit too much heat for this pansy girl). Also, the amount of vinegar was quite a lot – maybe just one cup would do? I think maybe that would thicken the sauce up a bit as well.

What’s your method? Drop a comment and throw your hands up for your family BBQ!

Old Fashioned Meatloaf

The last time I made meatloaf was about 5 years ago. I made something very similar to this… It might have been that exact recipe. I’ve buried the memory to the far recesses of my brain. It was pretty traumatic. The first line of this recipe says to preheat the oven and then “line a baking sheet with parchment paper”. You know what I did? I lined the baking sheet with wax paper. WAX PAPER. You know what happens to wax paper when you bake it in a 350 degree oven? Yepper – It melts. It melts INTO the food you are making. I essentially made a Wax Meatloaf.

I swore off Meatloaf for the rest of my life. But then my husband saw that I was constantly skipping over this particular recipe – he asked if I would try it. He said “I loved the meatloaf last time – please try it again”. He is either an excellent liar – or likes melted wax paper in his diet.

I will persevere! I give you really weird old fashioned meatloaf!
Honestly, I have never seen so many ‘bits’ in a meatloaf before. Celery, bell pepper… corn? But then again, I haven’t even so much as paused on a meatloaf recipe in years so what the hell do I know?

As far as ease is concerned – couldn’t be easier. Get a mess of crap and smoosh it all together in a big bowl and then slam into the loaf pan. Dissolving the bouillon cube in hot water was the biggest pain in the ass. Easy Peasy. Problem was that I’m still trying to figure out how to interpret these old recipes – I didn’t think to read through the directions fully before I ordered all of the ingredients for our grocery store curb side pickup. I didn’t realize I needed a 1/2 can of Mexican tomatoes.

What I did have was a can of HOT Rotel! How different could it be?! Throw on half the can and add the last minute spices and we are off to the races! (I’ll be damned before I put water chestnuts on ANY meal. Yick!)

Result:

I didn’t try it! I don’t eat spicy stuff. There was some discussion when this website started about what the name was going to be. While I am very pleased with what we ended up with – one of the original ideas was “The Wussy Texan”. I bring shame to my family, I truly do. I can’t eat spicy things…like at all. But my man and kid live for spice. So, while they eat dinner I get a perfectly acceptable reason to drink my dinner. (We’re on lock down – don’t judge)

He said it was good. And as a matter of fact, has now had it for lunch two days running. He says “meatloaf is always better as leftovers”. So there you have it – from Wax Loaf to actually edible! Progress!!

Lemon Delight

There is nothing that scares my family more than Jello. After the Lime Crab Mold debacle of 2019, they fear the Jello. Intense fear. I spend most evenings going through all the recipes that my Mom gave me and picking the ones that sound interesting – and I thought that just maybe this one would be okay…even if it has Jello.

Full disclosure at the beginning at this post. I did this wrong. Like, horribly wrong. I’ve always tried to interpret the recipes written in front of me instead of doing any sort of research first. I don’t want to know what it’s supposed to look like or how it’s supposed to be made. I want to see if I can follow the recipe as written. Now that I’ve looked online I clearly see that this was supposed to be Jello PUDDING. Not Jello gelatin. Rereading the recipe, it’s SO clear now.

However, even if I had replaced the gelatin for pudding – this shit still wasn’t going to ‘thicken’ over a double boiler. What exactly does “thick” mean? Thick like a pastry cream – or just thicker than water? I cooked this over a double boiler for 25 minutes and there was little to no change. It was thicker than water – so I went with that.

Next: “…then add the egg whites beaten stiff with the rest of the sugar”. Do I beat the egg whites with the sugar? Or do I beat the eggs and then add that and the sugar separately? When I add it, am I suppose to mix it? Or am I suppose to just layer it on top? I have so many questions!!

What made the most sense to me was to beat the sugar in with the eggs whites and make a basic meringue and mixed the whole thing together.

My last major mistake was an inaccurate count of graham crackers. I counted 13 graham crackers right out of the box. But since I’m clearly an idiot I took 13 full sheets of crackers. Each of those damn crackers is actually 2. Or maybe four? I doubled, or maybe even quadrupled, the cracker ratio.

Here’s a lesson for today. If something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t. I kept muttering to myself the entire time I was doing this, “This doesn’t feel right?”. Turns out I was correct. Trust your gut, girl!

In the end – it’s actually tastes good. It’s creamy, tart & sweet. But I can assure you that this isn’t what it’s supposed to look like. The final product looks like a piece of fried chicken on top of pudding. The graham cracker ratio is SO off it doesn’t hold together and sort of flakes off. There is graham cracker shrapnel all over my kitchen.

My husband actually likes it and plans on eating some of it – so not a total waste of food….But I’m still going to count this as a failure.

‘Mans’ Casserole

Let’s get this right out in the open. This might be the worst name for a recipe. Ever. I realize this came from a different time; the different ideas of society and different ideas of gender roles. I imagine the name depicts a hearty meal – something that the ranch hands and cowboys would be able to fill up on to sustain themselves. But it is still such an unfortunate name.

Oddly, this is another recipe that we use quite a bit and it’s interesting to see how it’s changed over the years. The way my mom taught me is far simpler and quicker. I didn’t even know that ‘liquefied nonfat dry milk’ was even in the original version. 

The best part of this post was that I got to make and share this meal with a local family that’s been hit hard from the pandemic. A good friend of mine, along with local churches and restaurants, have teamed up to feed as many people possible. I had reached out the other day to see if she needed any help and as luck would have it – there was a family that still needed a meal. 

Since this was going to be delivered to another family – and not my unsuspecting guinea pigs of a family – I decided to go with the way I’ve always done it. I wanted to make sure it worked and that it would be tasty. Also…nonfat dry milk- not something I keep in the pantry. (I had to look up what the hell it was)

It is a rather easy meal to put together. Saute the onions and brown the beef and drain off. You can get wild here with the beef and add whatever spices or flavors you like, or just keep it easy: salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, a touch of garlic powder. Turn off the heat and dump the entire can of cream of celery and two eggs into the mixture and mix it up. It’s not attractive at this point. Sort of a gloppy mess.

The recipe calls for layering – which is not something I’ve ever done. I take the whole pot of meat stuff, dump it into the pot with the noodles and mix it all and transfer to a casserole dish. Top the whole thing with an enormous amount of cheese. Like a lot of cheese. When you’ve added enough – add a touch more. It’s cheese y’all.

Bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes. Cheese should be slightly crispy on top.

This is one of my go-to recipes for lunch at the office…..when I used to have an office to go to! I would make it on the weekend and then packaged servings to take to work. I loved having my lunches sorted throughout the week and it heats up super easy in the microwave.

All of that said…it’s still a terrible name for a recipe. I have another recipe that I use from time to time called ‘Man Pleasing Chicken’…can’t decide which is worse.

Being able to help another family in need was a really gratifying experience. Despite being laid off, I truly know that we are luckier than some. We are very fortunate to have what we do. I encourage all of you to please take a moment to check out HerndonCares.Org. If you can donate, please do.

And if you’ve got a better name for this dish – please feel free to let me know. Seriously.

Banana Bread

I’ve always struggled when it came to breakfast in my house. I would typically ignore it – or pick up a coffee on my way to work. But for my daughter – who has spent a lifetime refusing to eat cereal – breakfast options needed to be clever. I sure as hell wasn’t going to get up each morning and make her a fresh breakfast….I’m not that good of a mom. Enter the breakfast breads!

I’ve had a banana bread recipe in my arsenal for as long as I can remember. It was my mothers recipe and she got it from her mother. I’ve always known it was a family recipe – but was so tickled to actually see it written down in my Grandmother’s recipe box. I love how worn and used the note card looks – and took extra special care to take a picture of it before I put it back. It makes me feel that maybe she made this as much as I do.

Thankfully I wrote down the actual instructions from my Mom years ago. As you can see – all the recipe has is the ingredients. Nothing else. Cause when it comes to recipes – you want as much ambiguity as possible.

It’s a super simple process: Mush 3 very ripe bananas. (mush to your desired consistency – lumpy to baby food) Cream together the sugar and shortening. Add the eggs one a time and mix well – then add the banana and mix. Add all the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour into a greased 8×8 or loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. DONE!

The most notable difference between my recipe and the original was the amount of baking soda. My recipe calls for 1/2 tsp – and the original is a full teaspoon. For this post I did her recipe and added the full teaspoon….and don’t see any difference at all. In fact, the only difference I see is that I over baked it slightly. It shouldn’t be that crispy on the top. I got distracted doing something and when the timer went off – I forgot to take it out for about 10 minutes.

Even with the over baking – it’s still damn good. So, so good straight out of the oven – or nuked for 15 seconds or so. I do ask that you feel bad for me, though. No nuts in this recipe. We’re a no nut house. Not because we have any allergies, (mad respect for those that do have to live with that) but because my husband doesn’t like nuts. In anything. It’s infuriating.

Banana Bread

Pinch and Peck
Simple & Quick Banana Bread!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Breakfast, Dessert

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Dash salt
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 very ripe banana
  • Nuts Optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan or 8×8 dish
  • Mush 3 or 4 ripe bananas
  • Cream shortening and sugar.
  • Add eggs one at a time – mix well after each egg.
  • Add the banana and mix through.
  • Add all the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 for roughly 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Easy Cheesy Chicken Crescents

Let me start off by saying that this dish does not photograph well. It especially does not photograph well off of a blue plate. I have a ways to go in my food styling. I’ve seen so many meme’s about ‘mastering a skill’ while in quarantine – maybe that’s the one I should work on. My husband might be a little irritated though when I grab the tuna fish sandwich out of his hand insisting that the light isn’t right.

Today’s recipe fits all the new rules for this website:

  • Do I have all the ingredients? I’m not going to store unless we run out of wine or toilet paper.
  • Do I think my family will actually eat it? Now is not the time to be wasting food for sport.

The truth of the matter though is that I didn’t think they would eat this as is. Boring ass non-seasoned chicken wasn’t going to sell this dinner to my family. So I made a simple rub to spice things up a bit.

  • Teaspoon of each chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, salt & 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Personally – that’s a bit spicy for me. If I were to do it again I would use:

  • Teaspoon of each turmeric, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt. 2 teaspoons oregano and a touch of pepper.

Dry rubs are really simple to make up on the spot. If you don’t like it hot – eliminate that spice. If you like garlic, like I do, add more of that.

You can google chicken dry rub and get a million returns. Or you can check out this slide show from Southern Living. It’s a bit heavy on the pop-ups and ads, but it gives you a break down of how to create your own rub.

Once you’ve decided on a mix – stir it all together so it’s combined.

Cut 2 chicken breasts into small cubes and throw it in a gallon bag and throw the dry rub in. Seal it up and smush everything around. Try to get everything as coated as possible. Heat up a medium to large frying pan with some olive oil and cook up the chicken (in batches if necessary), until done. Set the chicken aside and continue on with the recipe as written.

I will be honest, this was damn tasty. I was actually surprised. My husband said it was comfort food – and it seems that comfort is something we can all get behind during this time. It’s hearty and heavy – so not something I would lean towards on a hot summer night. Also, I think really easy to change up with your own ideas. Next time I’ll use a better cheese – like a gruyere maybe. Best part is, unlike toilet paper and yeast, these are easy things to come by at the store.

I told you it didn’t photograph well.

Let me know if you try it and what changes you made.

Easy Cheesy Chicken Crescents

Pinch and Peck
Comforting and filling with easily found items!
Course Main Course

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Chicken Breast Cubed, cooked and chopped
  • 1 8 oz Crescent Roll
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Cheese Use a good quality melting cheese if you can
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 portion Dry Rub of your choosing Experiment with: Chili Powder, Ground Cumin, Smoke Paprika, Oregano, Garlic Powder, Salt & Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Cube 2 chicken breasts and mix with dry rub of your choice
  • Cook chicken (in batches if necessary) over medium heat until cooked through. Remove chicken to bowl and add 2 tablespoons of cheese. Set aside to cool a bit.
  • In medium saucepan combine the soup, milk and 1/4 cup of cheese. Heat until cheese melts.
  • Chop or shred the chicken cubes to make rolling in the cresecent easier.
  • Place about 2 tablespoons worth of chicken/cheese mixture onto the large edge of crescent triangle and roll up. You should have eight total at the end.
  • When the cheese has melted in the soup mixture add roughly half of it to a 8 or 9 inch casserole dish. Place the rolled chicken crescents into the casserole dish. The bottom of the cresent rolls will be sitting in the hot soup mixture.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes – or until golden brown. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and return to the oven for a few minutes for it to melt.
  • Optional: Servce with the remaining soup/sauce. Poured over top or on the side.

Baguette

Last year, when I started this website, I was in a soul sucking job that provided so much down time during the day that each hour seemed like two. I started this project as something to lift my spirits and give me purpose, which it truly did. Then as luck would have it, I found my dream job, and eventually stopped working on the website, my soul no longer crushed.

Then the world tipped on it’s axis with Covid-19 and I was laid off of my dream job. It made sense, and I’m not (too) bitter. I was the last person hired, and they certainly weren’t going to let go of the veteran staff that had been there for years. Now I’m home with my high school age kid, trying to ‘home school’ and keep my family sane until the crisis is over.

All that leads me back to here.

I had to think of how I could proceed with the original idea of this website – but with limited funds and a deep desire to not need to go to the grocery store every day for odd ingredients. I’ll refocus the website on things I’m trying to cook and bake for us while we self isolate. I promise as many failures as before.

Which leads me to attempting home made baguettes.

Bread has, and always will be (along with boxed wine), my weakness. There really is nothing better than soft warm bread right out of the oven. Today I tried Paul Hollywood’s baguette recipe. Seems simple enough and I have all the ingredients on hand.

Let me just say that I consider myself a fair to decent home baker. I’ve made some damn delicious things in the past. Truth be told – being a pastry chef/baker for an actual career has always been the dream. My bread making abilities would probably get me fired from that job though.

First, the recipe says specifically to use a square plastic container – and that it’s important to shaping of the baguettes. Only square plastic container I had was the dispenser I use for my awesome Sangria. We’re aren’t going for ascetics here people.

Up to the proofing, everything had moved smoothly enough. Once I got to tipping the dough out, shaping it and getting it onto a baking trays the whole adventure was an unmitigated disaster.

It was impossible to handle – being careful to not knock any of the air out – it’s sticky and uncooperative. This dough does NOT want to be a baguette. It wants to stay where it is – in a large Sangria Dispenser. Transferring from container, to floured surface, to linen cloth, to baking sheet – these things were trashed by the time I got them to their final resting place.

Now, I imagine you being the smart home baker that you are, you KNOW when a recipe says to use a roasting pan in the oven to create steam – it means use a roasting pan…..Not a glass casserole dish.

Now I need to buy a roasting pan as well as a replacement glass casserole dish because it exploded all over my kitchen.

In the confusion of the explosion, I forgot to slash my bread. But at that point I just said screw it and put it in the oven.

End Results:

If someone had tried to break into my house I have no doubt I could inflict serious injury with one of these bastards. They were hard, ugly and burnt on the bottom.

There is a possibility that my ‘crumb’ was acceptable. And after cutting off the bottom burnt bit, my husband and I agreed that it was….fine. Cause in the ends, that’s really what you want to hear from your family. “It’s fine”.

Oh and also, the square plastic container didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

When everything was done and all the glass was cleaned up, I decided to sit down and watch the episode of Great British Bake Show that dealt with Paul’s baguette recipe. Only thing I have to say is- Bite me, Paul.

Sad Cake

I almost missed this recipe all together. It’s such a short little blurb in the middle of the page that I scanned right over it. When I finally did see it I felt like when I see puppies or babies on line. NO! Don’t be sad, cake! Why are you so sad? Cakes are supposed to be happy, why are you doing this?

Seriously, why is this cake sad? Why is it called that? It’s simple as hell to put together, so that couldn’t possibly be the reason. Is it sad because it was created during a hard time in life – is it like a depression cake? Was the creator actually unhappy? All questions I’m willing to get to the bottom of.

I have never seen a baking recipe that called for Bisquick. Also, note the ENTIRE box of brown sugar. Maybe the cake is sad because it’s causing weight gain, high blood sugar and an increased risk of heart disease! But who the hell am I to talk, my sugar cookie recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar and 3 sticks of butter! And let’s not talk about how quickly I can decimate a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream.

Feeling particularly lazy this day, I busted out the Kitchen Aid for this. Unnecessary for sure – I could have easily done this by hand. There really is nothing to it – assuming you’ve got Bisquick on hand. Also, I figured out why it’s called Sad Cake.

This thing is butt ugly when it comes out of the oven. The top of the cake sort of sinks into itself. Also, as any baker would do, I put a long tooth pick in to see if it was done and poked a big hole in the top. The entire top of this cake is crisp – like CRISP. It’s really quite odd. If a regular cake came out like this it would be a huge failure.

This thing is NOT a cake. It’s straight up Blondie. It’s gooey in the middle and crisp on the outside, and despite it’s sort of brown and boring appearance, it’s actually quite good! I think you could easily add white chocolate chips, or switch out the pecans for walnuts. A lot could be done with this I think. Not much to look at – and a weird crisp shell on top – but I recommend giving it a try!

Rice Rave

Originally I was going to push this recipe to the back of the pack. Straight out of the gate, there are a few ingredients here that are troublesome. For starters, when my daughter was in elementary school she asked if I would fill her emergency card out to say that she couldn’t eat broccoli for religious reasons. Secondly, I’m not a big fan of green peppers, and quite frankly green peppers and cheese whiz doesn’t sound like a winning combination.

However, I started this as a challenge, so I need to not wuss out now. For Gods sake – I made Lime Crab Mold – anything is going to be an improvement over that.

After an embarrassing text to my mother asking was PET Milk was, I got all my ingredients together and got rolling. There is one thing that keeps coming out of all of this and that is that almost all of these recipes so far have been damn easy. They haven’t all been great – but they’ve been easy. Simple ingredients and simple process. Obviously cooking has advanced a great deal in the last 75 years and our dependency on processed and canned food has (thankfully) changed and new and fresher options are becoming available on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean that things can’t still taste great AND be simple.

This isn’t exactly one of those. But I can see the potential! Did you see Cheese Whiz in the recipe? Do you like Cheese Whiz? If so, this dish is for you. Did I mention the CHEESE WHIZ!

Honestly, that’s pretty much all you can taste after a while. We actually had this as a side with our regular dinner. The first few bites were “Huh, that’s not too bad”, but then after another few bites I could tell no one was really touching it anymore.

This reminds me of a church Potluck dish. I think it could really be great – with a few tweeks. That’s for another day though.